A young person can be given an on-the-spot warning under the Young Offenders Act 1997 (NSW) if they have done something illegal, or are believed to have done something illegal.  

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What crimes can I get a warning for?

You can only get a warning for a minor non-violent offence. Examples include:

  • trespassing;
  • possessing alcohol underage;
  • shoplifting; or
  • offensive language.

However, you can’t receive a warning for a graffiti offence.

You can still receive a warning even if you’ve already been given a warning before or you have committed an offence before.

A police officer can decide not to give you a warning if the police officer believes it is not in the interests of justice to do so.  One case where this might happen is if you have been given a warning five or six times and you keep breaking the law.

How are warnings given?

The police officer who gives the warning must ensure that you understand the warning and its consequences.

Police may tell your parents about the warning, either by letter or in person. However, if the police officer believes informing your parents about the warning would create an unacceptable risk to your safety and well-being, they shouldn’t tell your parents.

What happens if I get a warning?

If you receive a warning, the police can’t take any further action against you.  There cannot be any conditions or additional punishment attached to the warning.

How do warnings affect my criminal record?

If a warning is given to you, the police officer must record it. However, this record does not form a part of your criminal history – and it must be deleted once you turn 21.  You will not have to tell any future employers that you have received a warning.

If you’re under 25 and you’ve been accused of a crime and want to know what could happen, please contact us here and we can give you free advice and information. Everything you tell us will be kept confidential.

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